Bishop Rhoades makes pastoral visit to Bishop Dwenger High School on Ash Wednesday
FORT WAYNE — The Bishop Dwenger High School community marked the beginning of the Lenten season with a special Ash Wednesday Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades along with the school’s chaplain, Father Jacob Meyer, in their newly renovated gymnasium on Feb. 18. The Mass opened Bishop Rhoades’ annual pastoral visit to the Fort Wayne high school.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke to the rapt congregation of the 40-day penitential season of Lent, acknowledging the spirit of compunction that is needed for an internal conversion. The bishop reminded the students that the ashes they would receive on their foreheads were a sign of their mortality and the call of Jesus to repent. He challenged those gathered to consider the three ways the Church offers to fight the spiritual battle against sin and evil — prayers, fasting and almsgiving.
Bishop Rhoades invited those present to pray for their “brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith, especially in the Middle East,” and offered his gratitude for the school’s support of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) programs that assisted those persecuted. Bishop Dwenger is one of 13 schools nationwide that has been invited to partner with CRS at the platinum level of the Global High School Program in service and solidarity for the global poor.
Bishop Rhoades concluded his homily by asking the students and staff to pray for him as he promised to pray for the Bishop Dwenger family throughout the Lenten season.
Following Mass, Principal Jason Schiffli offered his gratitude for the bishop’s visit as the congregation erupted in a round of applause. He recognized special guests, Marsha Jordan, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Carl Loesch, Secretary of Catholic Education and Bishop Dwenger school board members.
Following his plea to the students to participate in the CRS Rice Bowl program for Lent, he presented Bishop Rhoades with a $650 check for the seminarian fund, “in honor of the 13 seminarians from Dwenger,” said Schiffli.
Bishop Rhoades addressed the congregation in gratitude for the gift as well as for the dedicated Dwenger staff. “My deepest gratitude to the superb faculty, staff and administration for their commitment to Catholic education,” said Bishop Rhoades. He then revealed to the enthused student body the five male and five female saints who were voted to be commemorated in the stained glass windows of the soon-to-be constructed school chapel.
The morning was then punctuated by visits to junior and senior level theology classes where Bishop Rhoades learned about the studies of each class and opened the floor to student questions that ranged from “What do you think of the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’” to “If God knows everything why does He allow bad things to happen.”
Bishop took a break from academics to lunch with student council members that included Karen Eckrich, senior class president, Abby McGraw, senior class vice president, Kelsey Kinniry, student body president, Nick Houk, sophomore class president, and Maggie Schroeder, freshman student activities coordinator. Following lunch the bishop visited the Great Catholic Thinkers Class where a rousing discussion of saints ensued.
The bishop concluded his pastoral visit by meeting with the theology teachers, Principal Schiffli and the chapel committee.
Bishop Dwenger High School, currently the largest of the four diocesan high schools, has provided an exemplary, nationally-recognized Catholic education since 1963 to freshman through senior level students, of which 62 percent currently earn academic honor diplomas. The Christ-centered school boasts not only regular and honors academics, but religion classes, fine arts, music, athletics, business, resource, vocational programs, club and service opportunities and much more. Campus ministry led by Jason Garrett is alive and well at Dwenger as well.
Principal Schiffli reports that new at Dwenger this year is a men-only philosophy class added to the school’s curriculum after the success of the women-only class over the past two years. Dignity of Men Honors class explores the teachings of St. John Paul II, including excerpts from Theology of the Body.
Schiffli is enthused about not only the growth of the school’s academic prowess and Catholic identity but of the expansion of the campus as well. Spring promises to see preparation for the site where the new Bishop Dwenger Chapel will be constructed. Donations for the funding of the construction are now being accepted.
Schiffli also anticipates involving the student body in gardening on campus in partnership with CRS’s theme “food security” to provide foods for St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen and other area food ministries.
Of the bishop’s visit, Schiffli said enthusiastically, “I feel the bishop has a very special connection with the teens. He ignites something in these kids. … Our school is just a wonderful school. I’m happy to showcase Dwenger and hope the bishop will be even more proud of what we do here. … It’s about the kids. They love to be with the bishop.”
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